Can pregnant women use marijuana? Here’s why drug use increases during pregnancy

Legal sales of cannabis, first for medical purposes and now for recreational purposes, have spread across the country. Yet despite what appear to be years of public messages about the idea that marijuana is a fundamentally harmless drug that we needlessly penalize people for using and selling, many Americans still seem uncomfortable with it. encourage its use. And they might be right.

Currently, cities in New York state have until the end of the year to decide whether they wish to allow cannabis dispensaries to operate within their borders. They have every incentive to say yes, including potential millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, but many are revisiting an old slogan: just say no. In New Jersey, according to a analysis of the Rockefeller Institute, three-quarters of “municipalities withdrew from the six categories of adult marijuana licenses (grower, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer and delivery) that were described in state law. “

You don’t have to look far to find out why. Take the case of pregnant women: A study published this fall found that children of mothers who use marijuana during or soon after pregnancy are twice as likely as other children to become anxious, aggressive or hyperactive. The National Academy of Sciences Proceedings article describes how researchers looked at the presence of a chemical in the placenta, as well as hair hormone levels in young children, and then measured the performance of these children on a standardized behavioral assessment as well as their heart rate variability.

These are no small results, and they are even more concerning considering that many pregnant women seek marijuana to relieve symptoms of pregnancy, such as nausea. Women “tend to think that smoking and drinking during pregnancy should be avoided at all costs, but cannabis not,” Yoko Nomura, behavioral neuroscientist at City University of New York and co-author of the study, told the New York Times. “We have a long way to go in educating pregnant women, policy makers and even OB-GYN doctors on this issue.”

But where did they get the impression that cannabis is much less dangerous for their health than drinking and smoking? Would it be all government officials? from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently called it was a “world class industry”, and its only concern was that the issue of “fairness” be addressed, meaning that people of all races could share in the profits.

A Kaiser Permanente study in California earlier this year, rates of cannabis use among women in early pregnancy had increased by 25% by the start of the pandemic. While overall state usage has increased over the same time period – around 8% for women – it looks like pregnant women are really benefiting. “Pregnant women are more likely to use cannabis if they are depressed, anxious, or have experienced trauma,” said lead author Kelly Young-Wolff. “It is very possible that more pregnant women will use cannabis in an attempt to cure these problems on their own during the pandemic. ”

Obtaining cannabis for medical purposes has of course been much easier in recent years. While the authors don’t outright blame the legalization, they do note that the results are consistent with the increase in overall cannabis sales in California. According to an article from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, “State data shows that quarterly average taxable cannabis sales from April to December 2020 were $ 1.2 billion, while the quarterly average for the previous 15 months was $ 712 million, a 68.5% increase. “

But the laws of supply and demand are not the only causes of this problem. It is also the attitude we adopt towards pregnant women when it comes to drugs. Although the public has become widely aware of the problems of babies born exposed to substances – the terrible withdrawal symptoms that plague them during their first few weeks outside the womb – there is also a competing narrative that women who use drugs during pregnancy are victims. and cannot be held responsible for its actions.

Some activists believe that drug use during pregnancy should not be monitored at all. A group called upEnd, which advocates for the abolition of the foster care system because of its racially disparate impact, argues that we should end drug testing of new mothers and infants because it excessively involves and unnecessarily black women in the child welfare system.

Last year, New York City ended drug testing of mothers without their written consent. Lisa Sangoi, co-director and co-founder of the Family Power Movement, noted drug testing “targets black and brown communities for policing, surveillance and control so that white and wealthy people who also use drugs at the same rate are rarely, if ever, monitored.”

Of course, the real solution may be to simply test everyone. And given how much more drug use during pregnancy has become, how much women are now looking for cannabis as a medical intervention, and how much we now realize that it is dangerous for babies, this idea is more. that logical.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a resident researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, a contributor to Deseret News and author of “No way to treat a child: How the foster care system, family courts and racial activists are destroying young lives. “

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